Archives For TEC/General Convention

Absolutely wonderful news for the Diocese of South Carolina and St. Andrew’s!

Here’s the money section:

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED,
1. The Plaintiffs are the owners of their real, personal and intellectual property.
2. The Defendants have no legal, beneficial or equitable interest in the Plaintiffs’ real, personal and intellectual property.
3. The Defendant TEC, also known as The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America and Defendant The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and their officers, agents, servants, employees, members, attorneys and any person in concert with or under their direction or control are permanently enjoined from using, assuming, or adopting in any way, directly or indirectly the names, styles, emblems or marks of the Plaintiff as hereinafter set out, or any names, styles, emblems or marks that may be reasonably perceived to be those names, styles emblems or marks . . . . . .
4. The Dorchester County clerk is directed, upon the filing of this order, to refund the sum of $50,000.00 to the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.
5. The Defendants counterclaims are dismissed with prejudice.

Here’s the link to the full court ruling.

 

To say that this week was fantastic is an understatement.

In the two years since I became Vicar General and then Bishop I have had the opportunity to watch the development of our Province from a close-up perspective.  The trust that we have built with one another has afforded us – the Council and College – the ability to speak with increasing forthrightness and transparency about matters that could be – without these traits – emotionally explosive and certainly sensitive.  And yet charity prevailed (increased, actually) and clarity emerged (the College of Bishops will be issuing a communiqué shortly highlighting the week).

One helpful insight, from a unique perspective, came from +Mark Lawrence.  +Mark, along with Peet Dickinson+ and Suzanne Schwank spent part/all of the week with us as observers.  This morning +Mark issue this statement:

June 21, 2013

Dear Friends in Christ,

As many of you know I am at Nashotah House in Wisconsin at the Anglican Church in North America’s Provincial Council (which just concluded yesterday with a Festival Eucharist—an inspiring and joyful worship). This morning they will begin their House of Bishops Meeting. I am present as an observer. Joining me at the Provincial Council was The Very Rev. Peet Dickinson, Dean of the Cathedral, and Mrs. Suzanne Schwank, a member of our diocesan Standing Committee. They returned this morning to South Carolina and I will stay on for the House of Bishops Meeting and return on a late flight Friday in order to be at St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center for its 75th anniversary this weekend.

As I told the Diocesan Council last month and said at various deanery gatherings, not to mention many parish forums, it has been my intention to attend various gatherings within what I’ve referred to as the Anglican Diaspora in North America to learn the various players and seek greater unity as may be appropriate. So when I met with Archbishop Robert Duncan at the recent New Wineskins Conference, he invited me to attend this Council as an observer and bring a delegation. This struck me as a good way to follow-up on my expressed intentions.

It has been an enlightening and, frankly, encouraging few days.

Be sure to read it all.

 

 

I could not be more pleased with the Federal Court’s decision.

From the Diocese of South Carolina:

U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck today remanded the case to the South Carolina Circuit Court.  In informing the parties, Judge Houck said,

“If this Court determined that a case may be removed based on federal question jurisdiction whenever a defendant attributed a federal constitutional issue not alleged or advanced in a well-pleaded complaint, federal question jurisdiction could potentially be expanded to all cases containing tacit First Amendment issues.”

Diocesan officials expressed their gratitude for the decision.

“We are very pleased that Judge Houck remanded the case to state court,” said Jim Lewis, Canon to Bishop Lawrence. “The issues involved are essentially those of legal identity and are wholly determined by state law, so the most appropriate place to settle is clearly in state court, where we first took the matter.”

With the case remanded, it returns to the court of South Carolina Circuit Judge Dianne S. Goodstein.

The Diocese disassociated from the Episcopal Church after the denomination attempted to remove Bishop Mark Lawrence.

Following the Diocese’s decision, 49 churches representing 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members have confirmed their disassociation from TEC.

The Diocese has consistently disagreed with TEC’s embrace of what most members of the global Anglican Communion believe to be a radical fringe scriptural interpretation that makes following Christ’s teachings optional for salvation.

Read the ruling by Judge Houck here.

The Anglican Curmudgeon has an excellent analysis here.

Please continue to keep this matter in your prayers.

I received an email from The Very Rev”d John Barr containing the following note and prayer. I commend them both to you.

Today, June 6, attorneys representing the Diocese of South Carolina will go before a federal judge to request our case be moved back to its original venue in the South Carolina state court system. Our sense is that this hearing might well be a critical crossroads. We believe that the original venue of state court—where the Diocese and its parishes have sought a simple declaratory judgment as to whether we have title to our own property and whether we are the Diocese of South Carolina—is the true venue where the question should be settled.

Ultimately, of course, God owns the property. The gospel never changes; his promises are indestructible; and our high calling as Christ’s disciples is bright and undiminished. We see through a glass darkly, and God’s perfect will for us is sovereign, but we are asking you to pray for the return of this litigation to state court. No doubt, God will work his purposes out whatever the legal venue. The apostle Paul reminds us, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances…”

Gracious Lord, we pray that your will would be done on June 6. May we want what you desire. Speak your words alone through Alan Runyan and the other attorneys who represent us. May the courtroom be filled with the pleasant aroma of Christ, and at the end of the day, protect this Diocese and its parishes that we might bring the redemptive power of the biblical gospel to the South Carolina low country and beyond. Let not our fear of outcomes tarnish our joy or deter us from the mission you have given us. Teach us to bless and never curse those on the other side of this conflict. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And make us victorious over-comers wherever this road leads. For we ask it all in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

7.30 PM UPDATE:

Attorneys for the diocese (of South Carolina, i.e., those loyal to +Mark Lawrence) asked Houck on Thursday to move the case back into state court.

“Under federal law, there is no basis for federal jurisdiction,” attorney Alan Runyon said. He said property issues and the use of the diocesan name can be resolved under state law and don’t raise any constitutional issues.

He argued that under the South Carolina Nonprofit Corporation Act, a nonprofit’s membership in a large group is voluntary and it can end the association if it wants. “That doesn’t change because they are religious organizations,” he said.

But Matthew McGill, representing the diocese of parishes remaining with the national church, said the case concerns the First Amendment protections of freedom of religion.

Read it all.

From the Diocese of South Carolina’s website:

St. George, SC, January 31 – The Episcopal Church (TEC) opted to forgo court on Friday and not put up a fight as South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein today issued a Temporary Injunction to replace the Temporary Restraining Order she signed on January 23 to block TEC, its continuing parishes, individuals, organizations or any entity associated with it from, using, assuming or adopting, in any way, directly or indirectly, the registered names and the seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.

The Temporary Restraining Order would have been lifted or extended on February 1st following a hearing. The injunction will remain in effect unless the court decides otherwise until the court rules on the lawsuit filed by the Diocese, its trustees and 31 congregations, seeking to protect the Diocese’s real, personal and intellectual property and that of its parishes from a TEC takeover.

The Diocese sought legal protection to prevent TEC from repeating the behavior it has displayed in the past, when it used the courts to seize diocesan and parish property, including real estate, bank accounts, intellectual property and trademarks. The national church has filed more than 80 lawsuits against parishes and dioceses that disassociated from TEC.

The injunction was consented to by Thomas Tisdale Jr. who signed it on behalf of The Episcopal Church.  Either party may ask the judge to conduct a hearing on the injunction and to request changes in the injunction.

“We are gratified that The Episcopal Church has consented to a temporary injunction protecting the identity of our Diocese and its parishes,” said Jim Lewis, Canon of the Diocese. “We pray that sentiment fuels the prompt and reasonable resolution we all seek.”

Wow!

Very good news. From here.

St. George, SC, January 23, 2013 – South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein today issued a temporary restraining order that prevents The Episcopal Church (TEC) and parishes and individuals associated with it from assuming the identity of the Diocese of South Carolina.

The judge’s order states, in part: “No individual, organization, association or entity, whether incorporated or not, may use, assume, or adopt in any way, directly or indirectly, the registered names and the seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.”

The order specifically prohibits all but a handful of Diocesan employees, directors and trustees who are specified by name from using the Diocese’s identity.

The judge effectively prevents TEC, a voluntary association, and the parishes who support it, from claiming to own or operate the Diocese of South Carolina, an entity that it insists it owns but whose very existence predates The Episcopal Church.  The Diocese of South Carolina was established in 1785 and was a founder of TEC nearly five years later. The Diocese is a legally established South Carolina corporation and its trademarks are protected under state law.

TEC and several local parishes that remain associated with it have begun to assume the Diocese’s identity and use its seals, name and trademarks on websites, ads in newspapers, and other documents sent to parish corporations and individuals, and in registration forms mailed to the parishes within the Diocese stating its intent to take actions at its upcoming meeting on January 26.

The order states “The use of the names and marks of the Diocese of South Carolina can affect its goodwill, its third party relationships and create confusion among those with whom it deals in the ordinary course of its business.  In short, the ongoing business of the Diocese of South Carolina could be irreparably injured if corporate changes occur in its name, implemented by those without actual corporate authority.”

Judge Goodstein’s order, which takes effect immediately, prohibits such misappropriation of the Diocese’s identity for 10 days.  A hearing has been scheduled for February 1 to determine whether the temporary restraining order should be replaced by an injunction that could extend the prohibition until the court rules on a lawsuit filed recently by the Diocese of South Carolina, its trustees and 31 congregations, seeking to protect the Diocese’s real, personal and intellectual property and that of its parishes from a TEC takeover.

The judge’s decision comes days before TEC has scheduled to convene a “special convention” meeting, purportedly to choose new leadership for the Diocese of South Carolina. The stated goal of the meeting is to elect a provisional bishop and clergy and lay people to serve in diocesan positions to fill vacant offices of an organization whose ownership is contested.

TEC has historically filed lawsuits against parishes and dioceses that have disassociated over theological differences with the church, and has evicted congregations from their churches. In all, TEC has filed more than 80 lawsuits, spending more than $22 million in legal fees.

Locally, 44 of the Diocese’s 71 parishes and missions have voted to support the Diocese; 16 support TEC and 11 still remain undecided.  The parishes and missions supporting the Diocese represent about 77 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members.

Rob Kerby, the Senior Editor over at beliefnet, offers this analysis:

Prominent bishops are pulling out. Convention-goers were told headquarters had spent $18 million suing local congregations. Members are leaving at a record rate. This is no longer George Washington’s church – once the largest denomination in the colonies.

The headlines coming out of the Episcopal Church’s annual U.S. convention are stunning — endorsement of cross-dressing clergy, blessing same-sex marriage, the sale of their headquarters since they can’t afford to maintain it.

The American branch of the Church of England, founded when the Vatican balked at permitting King Henry VIII to continue annulling marriages to any wife who failed to bear him sons, is in trouble.

Somehow slipping out of the headlines is a harsh reality that the denomination has been deserted in droves by an angry or ambivalent membership.

This is no longer George Washington’s Episcopal Church – in 1776 the largest denomination in the rebellious British colonies. Membership has dropped so dramatically that today there are 20 times more Baptists than Episcopalians.

U.S. Catholics out-number the Episcopal Church 33-to-1. There are more Jews than Episcopalians. Twice as many Mormons as Episcopalians. Even the little African Methodist Episcopal denomination — founded in in 1787 — has passed the Episcopalians.

Among the old mainstream denominations reporting to the National Council of Churches, the Episcopal Church suffered the worst loss of membership from 1992-2002 — plunging from 3.4 million members to 2.3 million for a 32 percent loss. In the NCC’s 2012 yearbook, the Episcopal Church admitted another 2.71 percent annual membership loss.

Convention attendees were told that they had spent $18 million this year suing their own local congregations — those which have protested the denomination’s policies by trying to secede. The New York hierarchy has consistently won in court – asserting that the local members signed over their buildings decades ago. As a result, some of the largest Episcopal congregations in the United States have been forced to vacate their buildings and meet elsewhere.

So now, convention delegates were told, the denomination is the proud owner of scores of empty buildings nationwide – and liable for their upkeep in a depressed real estate market where empty church buildings are less than prime property. It’s the classic “dog in a manger.”

Read it all.

From the diocesan website:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to you in this Christmas season to share some news. Today, parishes representing approximately 75 percent of baptized members in our Diocese joined in filing for a declarative judgment in a South Carolina Circuit Court against the Episcopal Church (TEC). We are asking the court to declare that The Episcopal Church (TEC) has no right to the Diocese’s identity and property or that of its parishes.

We are saddened that we feel it necessary to ask a court to protect our property rights, but recent actions compelled us to take this action. As you know, The Episcopal Church (TEC) has begun the effort to claim the Diocese of South Carolina’s identity by calling for a convention to identify new leadership for the diocese, creating a website using the Diocesan seal and producing material that invokes the name and identity of the Diocese of South Carolina.

Our suit asks the court to prevent TEC from infringing on the protected marks of the Diocese, including its seal and its historical names, and to prevent it from assuming the Diocese’s identity, which was established long before TEC was formed. It also asks the court to protect our parish and Diocesan property, including church buildings and rectories, which our forefathers built and even shed blood over, and you have maintained without any investment of any kind from the national church.

Read it all.

Posted on the Diocesan website:

St. George, SC, January 4, 2013 –The Diocese of South Carolina, the Trustees of the Diocese and congregations representing the vast majority of its baptized members today filed suit in South Carolina Circuit Court against The Episcopal Church to protect the Diocese’s real and personal property and that of its parishes.

The suit also asks the court to prevent The Episcopal Church from infringing on the protected marks of the Diocese, including its seal and its historical names, and to prevent the church from assuming the Diocese’s identity, which was established long before The Episcopal Church’s creation.

“We seek to protect more than $500 million in real property, including churches, rectories and other buildings that South Carolinians built, paid for, maintained and expanded – and in some cases died to protect – without any support from The Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary. “Many of our parishes are among the oldest operating churches in the nation. They and this Diocese predate the establishment of The Episcopal Church. We want to protect these properties from a blatant land grab.”

Read it all.

From Anglican Ink:

The Oregon Supreme Court has handed down a decision in a Presbyterian Church property dispute that effectively nullifies the Episcopal Church’s Dennis Canon in its jurisdiction.

In a 29 Nov 2012 decision in Hope Presbyterian Church of Rogue River v the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Presbytery of the Cascades the Oregon Supreme Court held that a denominational trust does not encumber parish property unless the parish takes an explicit action to place a trust or lien on the property on behalf of the denomination.

Read it all.